Auckland Fringe, The Basement
March 10-13 | Reviewed by Renee Liang

SOLO PERFORMER, multicharacter pieces have a venerable tradition in this country, but seldom have they been performed with such in-your-face madcap energy as Morgana O’Reilly injects into this piece. A familiar face on the Auckland independent theatre scene, O’Reilly also reveals her talent for writing in this story about a down-but-definitely-not-out white trash family, the Hulmes. Annaleise is sixteen, pregnant and full of attitude while her brother Nathan is a gawky thirteen and trying to figure out... well, everything. The only thing he’s got sussed is how to annoy Annaleise. Older sister Emma is overseas in London, being taken for a ride by a variety of weirdos, while the older brother has trouble keeping his apparatus in his pants, with predictable results. Meanwhile, downtrodden mother Terri tries to entertain an old school friend, overacheiving Rachel, with hilarious results.

With no props and only a single chair, O’Reilly barely pauses for breath, sometimes changing characters after only a few seconds. It’s one hell of a thirty-minute ride. And The Height of the Eiffel Tower shows that as a dramatist, O’Reilly really knows how to write to her own strengths. This piece is a perfect showcase of her skill at portraying individual foibles, from Terri’s embarrassing horselaugh to Annaleise’s teenspeak. Her teenage-boy giggle as Nathan (every time he says the word ‘sex’) was my favourite. As Nathan she delivers what must be the funniest school speech about Fish ever written. And yet, we know we are laughing only because these caricatures are real, they are human, they are owned by people we know and love. And here is another acting strength of O’Reilly’s: she knows when to inject the pathos. One minute the audience are laughing, the next they are still. It’s an enviable skill.

Sadly, this is O’Reilly’s swansong before she jets off for greener and colder pastures overseas. As she confesses in the programme, The Height of the Eiffel Tower was written over only one weekend when brainstorming ideas about how to raise money for an OE. The result is proof that we are losing a considerable talent. So go and see it while you still can.